Morgan Harris likes neon. A lot. Harris, the owner of Mercurys Coffee has a new store and roastery opening in Bellevue soon and he’s going to be living the neon dream.
“The owner at Shoreline Sign and Awning, who did the work, said it was the biggest neon job he’s seen in at least ten years,” Harris said. With a 35-foot sign on one side, a 30-foot sign on the other, a 26-footer in front and a 340-foot strip of neon running along the edge of the rooftop, that’s not surprising.
Harris likes neon because when he was a kid his parents had a lot of antiques and old neon signs, so it reminds him of his childhood. He also likes that the look of neon differentiates his company from the rest of the area’s ubiquitous coffee shops. And according to Harris, that’s just the beginning of what separates Mercurys from the pack. “There’s a lot of coffee shops in the area so we need to stand out.”
Serving somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 customers a day and approximately two million cups of coffee a year qualifies Mercurys as a bona fide coffee success story. In fact, later this year they’ll be celebrating their 20th anniversary, no small feat for any business.
But Harris freely admits Mercurys is still David compared to Starbucks’ Goliath, and yet David seems to be doing very well, thank you very much, right here in Goliath’s own back yard. So, how do they do it? How have they managed to be voted Best Coffee Shop on KING 5’s Evening Magazine’s Best of Western Washington contest every year since 2012, winning Best of 425 Magazine 2016-2018, and best of Kirkland 2015-2017?
“No real trick,” said Harris. “We just feel our connection goes a little deeper than other coffee shops. We try to learn our customer’s names, their kid’s names, pet’s names. We want to know you better than just ‘Hey, how are you?’ I want our staff to have that Nordstrom mentality of customer service, to go above and beyond for our customers, all the time. When you’ve got only a couple of minutes to interact with your customer you have to make it count.”
Mercurys Coffee has been a trailblazer in one area that Harris is particularly proud of. “For fifteen years our coffee has been 100% organic. When we first started pushing organics it was pretty new, there was only about an eight-foot section in the grocery stores. Now there are aisles of it. Organic is everywhere.”
Harris also points to the fact that 100 percent of their cups are made in the USA and they have a strong selection of healthy offerings. “We try to keep our ingredients as clean as possible, minimally processed, the highest ingredients that we can buy.”
The new store, located at 13102 NE 20th, is different from the other Mercurys stores. For one thing, it’s substantially bigger, at 5000 square feet. It has its own in-house open baking kitchen as well as a roastery that can roast a batch of beans in fifteen minutes and will supply all of the company’s stores. The store also has a different look and feel from other Mercurys locations. “It’s a little edgier, a little more current, a little more industrial,” Harris said. “I was tired of the same vibe I got at other coffee shops.”
When Mercurys opens a new store — this will be their eighth — it becomes a thing, an event, a happening. For example, when they opened their Kirkland store three years ago, they needed people directing traffic. “Depending on what time of day you arrived you might have found fifty cars in line,” Harris said. “According to the Kirkland police the back-up was all the way into Redmond. We had employees walking the lines handing out mugs, sampling pastries, handing out T-shirts. When we open a store, we want people to show up and get immersed in the Mercurys style.”
Company names are very personal and there’s usually a good story behind them. Mercurys is no different. “I was really in tune with Roman and Greek mythology,” Harris said. “When I first started the business, I was trying to come up with something catchy and Mercury being the messenger of the gods, it just fit my vision.”
So, it didn’t have anything to do with the fact that Harris’s middle name is Mercury? “Well, maybe if it wasn’t my name I wouldn’t have been as aware of it as I was,” demurred Harris, “but I didn’t go out of my way to name the company after myself, I just felt it fit.” Based on the popularity of the brand, a lot of Eastsiders clearly agree.
Over the last 20 years, Mercurys Coffee has made a name for itself. A name synonymous with great customer service, organics, healthy options, and a damn fine cup of coffee. And neon. Lots of neon.